Sunday, 28 November 2010

Barrier Reef Not Looking So Great - The Sydney Morning Herald


photo credit The Sydney Morning Herald


That's bleached (read: effectively dead) coral, and that pretty much sums it up.

Ocean acidity caused by carbon emissions has been frequenting the news lately, but what does that mean for the Great Barrier Reef off Australia?

"If people's CO2 emissions continue as they have, the future of the reef is very grim. I would suggest that coral reefs will be highly altered and perturbed ecosystems by 2050 if we do not make a massive effort to curb our emissions. The findings back up much of the previous research that finds ocean acidification will have serious impacts on reefs," says Dr. David Kline, a researcher monitoring experimental sites based of predicted future CO2 levels.

Full article here (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

You know what I'm thankful for? Sharks.

Please enjoy this silly Thanksgiving video!


photo credit YouTube & djbunnyboy


Video here (YouTube user djbunnyboy)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Baby Dolphin Rescued by Tourists - Washington Post


photo credit Miguel Rojo, AFP & Getty Images


I just couldn't get to this story fast enough, and you've probably already seen it...But how can I not make a post about this?

A baby river dolphin was found injured by tourists in Punta Colorada, Uruguay and nursed back to health at Rescate Fauna Marina.

Enjoy these adorable photos!

Full article and photos here (Washington Post)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Whales Found Dead on Donegal Beach - BBC


photo credit BBC


Sad news from Ireland.

Thirty-three pilot whales have been found dead on Rutland Island off the coast of County Donegal. This is one of the biggest mass deaths of whales in Ireland.

Says Eimear McGee, a respondent: "They're a very strong social group... so the sick and the healthy died here together."

Both illness and Royal Navy sonar exercises are suspect.

Full article here (BBC)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Oil Spill Panel: White House Blocked Federal Scientists from Releasing Worst-Case Scenario for Gulf Disaster - Huffington Post

Knew it.

"The Obama administration blocked efforts by government scientists to tell the public just how bad the Gulf oil spill could become and committed other missteps that raised questions about its competence and candor during the crisis, according to a commission appointed by the president to investigate the disaster."

Oh shit, son. Looks like you caught...yourself? Nice one.

Remember when they said most of the oil was gone?

"...The analysis never said it was gone, according to the commission. It said it was dispersed, dissolved or evaporated – meaning it could still be there."

And guess what? It was.

"By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem," the report says.

You know, this is really the kind of thing that pisses me off. How can it be okay to lie to an entire country about the worst environmental disaster in its history? Why do people think it's alright to do these things? Shouldn't the people who live there KNOW the extent and the dangers that came with the disaster? Yeah, BP; yeah, Obama...you fucked up. But goddamn admit your mistake and tell the truth so we can all figure out what the hell to do about the problem ASAP. I mean really, if you lie about a problem does it go away? No.

Obviously, they're saying this none of this censoring ever happened now.

Grow up. Damn.

Full article here (Huffington Post)

Saturday, 30 October 2010

New Mackerel Talks - Sheltand Marine News


photo credit Shetland Marine News
It is a really pretty fish though, isn't it?


"Politicians and fishing industry leaders will gather in London on Wednesday for a second round in the protracted mackerel fisheries talks between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Faroe."

I've mentioned the "Mackerel Wars" here before. A solution is currently being sought.

Basically both Iceland and the Faroe Islands significantly increased their catch quotas this year despite worldwide dwindling fish stocks. The EU is concerned about overfishing...Or is it that Scotland wants to continue to have the majority of the fish?

One thing's for sure:

"It is essential that any deal reached must ensure that mackerel is harvested at sustainable levels whilst at the same time protecting the rights of those who have traditionally fished for the species in the north-east Atlantic."

I totally agree. But let's please remember the sustainable part as well as the traditions!!

Full article here (Sheltand Marine News)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

First Census of Marine Life Shows Ocean Life Is Richer, More Connected, More Altered Than Expected - Science Daily


photo credit Russ Hopcroft & COML


The Census of Marine Life (COML) has been a joint effort between 2,700 scientists from 80 countries over the course of ten years. Not your Bio 101 lab report - that's for damn sure. Recently the findings of this enormous project have been published...So what did they find?

"Patricia Miloslavich of Venezuela, Co-senior Scientist: 'Before the Census, we lacked even a simple list of known marine species. Information was scattered all over the world with limited access. If we liken Earth to a firm with humankind as CEO, we must surely know the key employees and their functions.'"

Key employees aka species were entered into the Ocean Biogeographic Information System, or OBIS. This system keeps record of new and old species, where they are found and can provide a baseline to help monitor 21st century changes brought on by human activity.

Says Victor Gallardo of Chile, Vice-Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee: "A human Census is used for many practical purposes, like government allocations of seats in a legislature, or funds for education and health care. Likewise this ocean life inventory constitutes a true Census that can guide conservation."

Full article here (Science Daily)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

World Cup Prognosticator, Paul the Octopus, Dies - The Globe and Mail


photo credit Sea Life Oberhausen


My friends, this is a sad day - and this will be the only update for today. I'm posting it immediately after I found out...Paul the psychic octopus has passed.

Paul rose to worldwide fame this year as he correctly predicted the outcome of several World Cup games. He chose the winners of all seven of his home country's games (Germany) and of the final game between Spain and the Netherlands.

After the last of the World Cup predictions, Paul retired.

“He won't give any more oracle predictions — either in football, nor in politics, lifestyle or economy,” said Tanja Munzig of the Oberhausen Sea Life Aquarium. “Paul will get back to his former job, namely making children laugh.”

Paul appeared healthy upon his check in last night, but this morning he was found to have died of natural causes. Paul was two-and-a-half years old - a long life for an octopus of his variety.

“'We had all naturally grown very fond of him and he will be sorely missed,' Sea Life manager Stefan Porwoll said in a statement."

It is still uncertain how Paul will be remembered at the aquarium, but his ledgend won't soon be forgotten. Having been hatched in England and therefore of English origin, he was appointed as an ambassador to England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

"'El Pulpo Paul' became so popular in Spain that the northwestern Spanish town of O Carballino tried to borrow him and made him an 'honorary friend.'"

Donations made in Paul's name will also help fund a sea turtle rescue facility on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Rest in peace, Paul.

Full article here (The Globe and Mail)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Hidden Beauty of Plankton: Incredible Microscopic Sea Creatures Caught on Camera - Daily Mail


photo credit Dr. Kirby & BNPS.co.uk


In my absence from the blogosphere, something wonderful was posted on the normally trashy (but still entertaining) Daily Mail. Don't get me wrong - I love me some Daily Mail, and I've posted articles from there onto here before - but really...It's posted alongside "Natalie Portman Falls Out with Daddy over Naked Scenes" and the latest Russell Brand/Katy Perry nonsense. Not really your source for top scientific news...but still - LOOK AT THIS ARTICLE!!!

Really, it's fascinating. I love algae. Yeah, I'm one of those weird ones who enjoys watching pond scum bloom (well, ocean scum really). I held a job where I had to grow algae, and I spent a lot of time admiring the pretty colors. But this is more than just algae; we've got some little beasties too!

These amazing images are of microscopic plankton photographed by Dr. Richard Kirby for his new coffee-table book Ocean Drifters; A Secret World Beneath the Waves.

"Dr Kirby says the importance of plankton is not widely understood and he hopes his book will spread their appeal."


Take a look at these images - they are truly beautiful and give us a peek at the microscopic world in the waves.

Full article here (Daily Mail)

Flash Mob Descends on Causeway Bay Times Square - CNN


photo credit Pictures by the Wayside


Why? To raise awareness about the exploitation of sharks for shark fin soup!

Demand for the well-known Asian dish has been putting an enormous amount of pressure on sharks of all kinds - especially recently with population numbers lower than ever.

You can catch up on what exactly shark finning is here.

Recently a lot of public attention has been brought to the cruelty and wastefulness of shark finning, making the dish less and less popular in the public eye.

Check out the video from the Hong Kong flash mob in the link. It raises awareness while delivering a healthy dose of frozen people, shark costumes and butt-pinching.

Full article here (CNN)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

First Genetic Evidence for Loss of Teeth in the Common Ancestor of Baleen Whales - Science Daily

First I'd like to apologise for not being around so much. Real life has gotten hectic. Anyway.

I'm assuming all my readers know the difference between a toothed whale like an orca and a baleen whale like a humpback. If not, there's your homework assignment.



When and why did these two groups of whales form? Well, we have a glimpse of that now.

Fossils and morphological evidence has suggested that the groups diverged about 25 million years ago, but there was no genetic evidence to support this.

"Now biologists at the University of California, Riverside provide the first genetic evidence for the loss of mineralized teeth in the common ancestor of baleen whales."

What's more is that the genetic evidence lines up perfectly with the existing fossil evidence.

"We show that the genetic toolkit for enamel production was inactivated in the common ancestor of baleen whales," said Mark Springer, a professor of biology, who led the research. "The loss of teeth in baleen whales marks an important transition in the evolutionary history of mammals, with the origin of baleen laying the foundation for the evolution of the largest animals on Earth."

Baleen whales are able to grow much larger because of their feeding habits. Think of it like this: A dolphin eats fish which it has to individually capture. A massive blue whale, on the other hand, does not have enough hours in the day to spend individually capturing tiny fish. It is much more efficient for a large whale to move down the food chain to the base where more and more biomass is available. Keep in mind the amounts of animals in each tropic level: There are many many more planktonic species available because they feed all the small fish, which in turn feed all the medium-sized fish, which in turn feed all the larger fish, and so on and so on until we get up to whales. In each level upwards there are less and less animals that can rely on the food source beneath them. For example, we have far fewer sharks than minnows (ignoring for the moment the gross and tragic exploitation of sharks).

"Next, the researchers plan to piece together the complete evolutionary history of a variety of different tooth genes in baleen whales to provide an integrated record of the macroevolutionary transition from ancestral baleen whales that captured individual prey items with their teeth to present-day behemoths that entrap entire schools of minute prey with their toothless jaws."

Full article here (Science Daily)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Dentists Discover Secret of Narwhal's Tusk - CBC News


photo credit National Institute of Standards and Technology & Wikipedia


For a long time, we weren't really quite sure what the narwhal's tusk - actually a modified tooth - was for. People have guessed things from mating rituals between rival males to spearing fish for dinner, but now we could possibly be looking at the real answer.

Researchers in the US are saying the 1.5-metre-long tusk is actually a "sensory probe" filled with 10 million nerve connections that can be used to sense changes in water temperature and detect if a prey fish has recently been in the area.

"And when Narwhals display "tusking" behaviour, or rub tusks, they're likely experiencing a unique sensation, say scientists. The researchers say there is no other animal with a comparable ability in nature, and certainly no comparable tooth with that kind of functional adaptation."

Very different, very interesting!

Full article here (CBC News)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Local False Killer Whales Particularly Vulnerable - Maui News


photo credit Dan McSweeny & The Wild Whale Research Foundation


False killer whales actually look nothing like true killer whales. They are smaller, about 15 - 20 feet, and are a plain black. A bit strange looking, but attractive nonetheless. The insular Hawaiian population is of a particular concern - at risk of going extinct within just three generations, or 75 years. Only around 150 animals remain.

Their numbers have probably been decreasing due to certain human-like habits they have...so listen up. They prefer to eat "top predator" fish - tuna, swordfish, mahimahi...which are loaded with toxins traveling and accumulating up the food chain. That and, oh...we're eating all those fish.

Additional factors include bycatch and entanglements from fishing gear, as well as increased anthropogenic development and noise pollution.

False killer whales are social animals. Recently, researcher Dan McSweeny was honored enough to be included in their meal-sharing ritual...which I think might just be the coolest thing ever.

These animals travel and hunt in groups, and when a member of the pod makes a catch, he or she will pass it around and share with the entire group.

"Some just pass the fish on, others take a small bite first, until eventually the prey animal is returned to the hunter who killed it. McSweeney was startled to be included in the exchange. The whale, which was about six feet away, shoved "a chewed-up chunk of ahi in my chest"; then swam below and behind McSweeney, blowing bubbles that rose around his swim fins."

Seriously, how cute is that?!

Full article here (Maui News)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Dolphins Save Man from Shark - Animal Tales

A pod of dolphins kept a group of swimmers safe off the coast of New Zealand about three weeks ago. The people involved had originally decided to keep the story to themselves until they could confirm what they had seen, but have now come out with the details.

A Lifeguard training session was taking place about 100 metres offshore when a pod of dolphins began herding them into a tight circle. When some of the swimmers tried to move away they were herded right back. They had no idea why the dolphins were exhibiting such unusual behaviour, until a three metre great white shark swam by!

"Auckland University marine mammal research scientist Doctor Rochelle Constantine said dolphins were normally vigilant in the presence of sharks. The altruistic response of the dolphins was normal, she said. 'They like to help the helpless.'"

Full article here (Animal Tales)

Monday, 11 October 2010

'Jellyfish' Smoothies offer Solar Solutions - CNN


photo credit AFP & Getty Images


Throw a bunch of glow-in-the-dark jellyfish into a blender and what do you get? A mess! Well, that...and miniature fuel cells.

"Zackary Chiragwandi at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden told CNN he has developed a method of generating power at a nano-level by administration a droplet of jellyfish-type GFP onto aluminum electrodes and exposing it to ultraviolet light."

This method is a lot easier and cheaper than existing methods like Gratzel cells that try to mimic plant photosynthesis. They're also much more efficient.

This technology has the potential to be used in solar panels as well as in medicine. The small-scale power cells could actually exists and run themselves inside the body, diagnosing or treating disease.

The article also goes on to mention developments in the technology of generating power from algae.

Cool stuff!

Full article here (CNN)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Video: 5-Foot Penguin Fossil Discovered - National Geographic


image credit University of Texas at Austin video
(National Geographic)


Scientists in Peru have discovered a five-foot-tall, 36-million-year-old penguin fossil.

Can I say again that it was five feet tall? That's just about as awesome as the giant sloth.

Upon recovering a bit of a feather, they were able to determine that these were not your typical black-and-white tuxedo penguins, but they were rusty-red and gray. And five feet tall. Did I mention that? Additional discoveries from this fossil suggest that the evolution that took place to create our modern-day penguins actually took place early-on. Except for the part about being five feet tall.

Video here (National Geographic)

U.S. Establishes New Offshore Guidelines - Calgary Herald

Change is good, but some things will not be changed - like the current moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling. And that's good too.

"There will always be risks associated with deepwater drilling, but we will only lift the suspensions when I am comfortable that we have significantly reduced those risks," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

Even still, the moratorium is due to end next month...and they're trying to end it even earlier. So...I guess we're not really accomplishing anything. The report on the investigation into the cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster isn't due until December. Personally, I think they should wait to lift the moratorium until then. Doesn't that make more sense? That's probably why they aren't doing it.

Canada's watching the States. They're also working on updating their offshore drilling regulations - particularly in the arctic. A tropical blowout doesn't really apply to drilling in frozen oceans, but Canada's team will be keeping an eye on the developments.

Full article here (Calgary Herald)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Dolphin Species Attempt 'Common Language' - BBC


photo credit L. May-Collado


At first I thought this was really exciting and cute, but once I realized the dolphins were actually trying to beat each other up...not so much.

Nevertheless, two separate dolphin species in Costa Rica have been heard attempting to communicate with each other. Bottlenose and Guyana dolphins each make their own distinct sounds and could be said to have their own "languages" - though the extent of their communication abilities is not yet known. As the two dolphin populations come together in Costa Rican waters, they alter their languages and can be heard making noises halfway between one dialect and the other.

"I was surprised by these findings, as I was expecting both species to emphasise, perhaps exaggerate, their species-specific signals," Dr May-Collado told the BBC. "Instead the signals recorded during these encounters became more homogenous. "This was a very exciting discovery."

It's unclear exactly why this is happening - or even if both species are involved. It could just be one species or the other trying to alter their language in order to get a message across. Interactions are usually confrontational, so it's possible that one species is trying to frighten away the other by mimicking their dialect.

Full article here (BBC)

Mexico Expected to Sue BP Over Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico - AOL News

Good. I was wondering when this was gonna happen.

"Three Mexican states, Veracruz, Tamaulipas and Quintana Roo, have already filed claims against BP, citing a similar list of grievances as their American counterparts: damages to fishing and tourism. Now the federal government may be joining that list, at least to reclaim the $35 million that it has spent monitoring the oil, the last remnants of which could hit Mexican shores this month."

Mexico probably knows what it's doing, too. The Ixtoc 1 spill leaked oil onto American shores and caused an international lawsuit in 1979. Mexico, however, claimed sovereign immunity and refused to pay. We'll see how it goes the opposite way.

Full article here (AOL News)

Sushi Restaurant Pulls Bluefin Tuna from the Menu - News Now (I-Team 8)


photo credit News Now


"Chef Oscar Toro wants his diners to try new things, not just for their own enjoyment, but for the good of the planet. His employer, the wildly popular Sushi Samba restaurant at Palazzo, has just taken one of its most popular, and most expensive, dishes off the menu."

That would be the bluefin tuna. Beloved by those still unaware of its critically endangered status, bluefin tuna stocks are plummeting thanks in part to the popularity of its sushi.

Sushi Samba instead serves fish species that are both delicious and abundant, making it a win-win situation for people and fish. The response has been "overwhelmingly positive!"

The declining stocks have been widely attributed to stubborn Japanese fishermen profiting greatly from the bluefin's exploitation.

Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society commented "I do know one thing...If the fish disappear and the oceans die, then we die. That's a message that might sound radical but it's a truism."

A final quote from the article:
"The Japanese fishing industry has told American authorities that we have no right to tell their culture what they can or can't eat. The American view is that the oceans belong to everyone, not just to the Japanese, and that eating a species into extinction is greedy and stupid."

Full article here (News Now)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Warning System keeps Ships, Right Whales Apart - Boston Herald


photo credit Cape Cod Times


A fancy new computer will tell you the approximate location of endangered right whales off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts. They congregate near Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where unfortunately major industrial shipping lanes have cut through. Ship strikes are a problem for right whales, and with their numbers still not recovered from the days of whaling, this means trouble.

"The new warning system is the first in the world to show, in real time, the general presence of endangered whales as well as ships in one of the mammals’ most populous gathering spots."

Lanes have recently been shifted to avoid collisions, but a new threat looms. Liquid natural gas ships - among the largest and fastest vessels of all - have begun to take over the area thanks to Excelerate Energy and Suez Energy. Hopefully the new computerized warning system will prove effective in providing the needed information to slow down and avoid whale strikes.

Full article here (Boston Herald)

Dolphin ‘Massacre’ Protested - Copenhagen Post


photo credit Copenhagen Post


The Danish Faroe Islands are home to an ancient cultural ritual where pilot whales (actually dolphins) are chased from the sea and gutted on the shores. It used to be that the meat was needed to feed the small civilization, but today the bloody and disemboweled corpses lay lifeless on the beach for nothing but "cultural pride."

Friday in Paris, France in front of the Danish Embassy, dozens of protesters gathered to demonstrate their disapproval.

"The annual hunt is renowned as a bloody spectacle in which scores of whales are driven towards shallow water where they become beached and slaughtered."

Additionally, a letter is being sent to Queen Margrethe urging that the hunt be stopped.

Full article here (Copenhagen Post)

BP sees no 'Gross Negligence' in Gulf Oil Spill: New Chief - AFP

Really?

If the US Justice Department finds that BP is guilty of "gross negligence," fines the company has to pay would be dramatically increased. BP isn't worried. Now, is this because they truly believe they took all necessary precautions? Or is it because they slipped a bit of money into a few pockets when no one was looking? Just asking...

BP is currently working on changing their safety regulations.

""I wouldn't describe it as an admission of anything," Bob Dudley said in an interview posted on the newspaper's website."

Mmmkay. Whatever you say, boss.

Full article here (AFP via Google)

Kate Walsh’s Gaga-Inspired Sustainable Sushi Dress Auctioned Off For Oceana - Ecorazzi


photo credit NBC & Ecorazzi


Whut? Mmmkay, moment I wish I had a TV.

So I just heard about this sushi dress Kate Walsh wore on Leno. Inspired by Lady Gaga's disgusting-yet-creative meat dress, Kate Walsh decided to create a sushi dress. Worth pointing out - this was all fake sushi. No real fish on this dress, a wise choice if you ask me.

The dress featured only sustainable fish types and was designed to help raise awareness about choosing sustainable seafood. It is now being passed on to a fan as part of a sweepstakes for Oceana.

What do you think? Crazy idea or great way to raise awareness? Or both? Personally, I think this would make a great Halloween costume!

Full article here (Ecorazzi)
PS- Check out the latest sustainable seafood guide linked in this article! It offers sustainable suggestions based on the type of flavour and texture you already like in fish. (National Smart Seafood Guide produced by Food & Water Watch)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Brussels Doesn't Rule Out Closing Bluefin Tuna Fisheries - Fish Information & Services (FIS)

Some hope for tuna and finally some common sense from fisheries officials.

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner of Fisheries for the European Union, says if scientists advise a full closure it just might happen.

"If the report [by the specialists] says that we must reduce the quota, we will. I am ready to close the fisheries."

The CITES meeting earlier this year was a complete failure in protecting declining stocks of tuna, but the upcoming meeting in November looks hopeful.

Full article here (FIS)

Ten Things Kids Want Us to Know About Trash in the Ocean - Ocean Conservancy


image credit Isiah & Ocean Conservancy


"I was heartbroken. Pollution is ruining the beauty of beaches around the world," says Jocelyn, a fourth-grader who participated in New York City's leg of the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup.

Students headed to their local beaches to collect garbage and record the items they found. Here's a bit of what they had to say:

"Some things that are making all these things go on beaches are that people throw things into lakes, rivers and oceans, and those things travel around the world and end up on shores and on beaches." -Juliet

"On Plumb Beach I saw two cigarette liters. You might think that's not so bad but they still had oil in them." -Karin

"I don't want to sound like I'm bossing people around but you guys have got to step up and get tough about this stuff." -Jack


The children sent in their findings to the Ocean Conservancy along with a few suggestions they had about reducing the amount of trash that ends up on our beaches.

Completely adorable. If fourth-graders can go out and actually do something about the problem, why can't adults?

Full article here (Ocean Conservancy)

Panel Wants BP Fines to Pay for Gulf Restoration - NY Times

What else was it going to pay for, sheesh? Fines for environmental degradation should pay to restore the environment? What a novel idea!

"In a report to be presented Tuesday in New Orleans, Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former Mississippi governor, will urge Congress to create a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund to oversee the restoration efforts."

Crap, that doesn't already exist? Because I'm pretty sure I gave them $30.

Seriously though, I'm pretty shocked this hasn't come into being sooner. I guess I just assumed that it had, I guess I just assumed that the money paid by the fines would go back into restoring the affected areas...but I guess not.

“The gulf took the risk and the gulf took the damage and the money should be dedicated to going back there,” Mabus said.

This part I thought was interesting:
"The [Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force] will begin the longer-term tasks that the recovery fund is intended to address, with a particular emphasis on public health concerns, including many cases of stress and depression brought on by one of the worst environmental disasters in American history."

Obviously I've been focusing on the environmental impact of the spill - as we should. But I hadn't given much thought to the depression the people in the Gulf states must be feeling. Honestly, I'm depressed about it over here in London, thousands of miles away. I've never even been to the affected areas. I simply can't imagine what it must be like for those people. If it were my home, I'd just fall to pieces.

Here's a dick move if I ever saw one:
"BP has pledged as much as $20 billion to compensate those who lost their property or livelihoods as a result of the spill, but has not committed to gulf restoration projects that go beyond the immediate impact of the spill. Company executives said recently that their willingness to contribute to such work would depend on their continued access to oil and gas beneath the gulf waters."

Oh, okay. They'll help out, as long as they can continue to go after the oil that caused all these problems in the first place. Obviously, they still don't give a shit. Seriously, what happened to common human decency? Why is money the driving force of all things now? Didn't cutting costs and cutting corners lead to the blowout...Twice?

Full article here (NY Times)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

EU ready for Battle vs Iceland, Faroes in 'Mackerel War' - AFP

Oh boy, here we go. What did I say, huh?

To be honest, I didn't even know people ate mackerel until I moved to the UK. We always just used it for bait to catch blues on the boat I used to work. Anyway.

EU is ready to officially butt heads with Iceland and the Faroe Islands for overfishing mackerel stocks. Both have raised their fishing quotas significantly and have angered fishermen who work the same waters, such as those from Scotland and Norway.

So what exactly is the EU gonna do about it? Great question - doesn't say. It just says there is a mandate to negotiate with the Icelandic and Faroese officials. Negotiations for a long-term deal should resume in October.

Full article here (AFP via Google)

Something Completely Silly


image credit BBC
Duh-duh...


So my sister sent me a link yesterday and I was introduced to a show called "Walk on the Wild Side" on BBC One. It has nothing to do with conservation. It has nothing to do with news. It has nothing to do with marine resource management. But it does have some sea creatures in it, so that's enough to post it here, right?

Basically it's animals "talking" over nature footage. This makes me with I had TV...I could seriously watch hours of this - and I did on YouTube yesterday.

Farting Dolphin

Singing Sharks

I couldn't find this one alone, but the Superhero Seal Pups at the end of this video are hilarious.

There's a couple more with some dolphins and an elephant seal, and plenty with other types of animals. I recommend you spend your day being productive and watching all of them.

Link here (BBC)

Monday, 27 September 2010

New Study Measures Nations’ ‘SeafoodPrint’ - Oceana & The Washington Post


photo credit Jean Gaumy & Magnum Photos


A new study published last week measures different country's "SeafoodPrints" around the world. Think of it like a carbon footprint, only with seafood production instead of carbon production.

"How do you measure the "SeafoodPrint" of a country, you ask? By factoring in the type of fish and the total amount hauled in. The researchers used a unit of measurement based on "primary production," the microscopic organisms at the bottom of the marine food web that are required to make a pound of a given type of fish."

Clever. And needed - I might add. We've been hearing a lot about how fish stocks are declining worldwide. The ocean is in just as much trouble as the rest of the planet - if not more.

China wins (if you want to call it that) first place for its massive SeafoodPrint based on population size. Peru comes in second due to its large anchoveta fishery that provides feed for livestock and farmed fish worldwide. Guess who's number three? The United States - for its terrible choices in preferring top predators like tuna, salmon and swordfish.

"As Dr. Pauly told the Washington Post, "A pound of tuna represents roughly a hundred times the footprint of a pound of sardines.""

So what should we do?

"We could think about reducing our [seafood] footprint like we're thinking of reducing carbon emissions," says National Geographic fellow Enric Sala.

Want more information on choosing sustainable seafood? Check out this post for some great tools, or just stop by your local Whole Foods Market and follow their handy labeling system.

Full articles here (Oceana & The Washington Post)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Turkey to Eliminate Driftnets in 2011 - Oceana


photo credit Oceana & Carlos Suarez


"It’s estimated that thousands of creatures, including whales, dolphins, sharks and sea turtles, are trapped by the indiscriminate fishing gear each year."

And that's a great reason to stop using it. European organizations estimate there are over 500 illegal fishing vessels operating in the Mediterranean - some with driftnets up to 12 miles long! As a result, Morocco recently announced its plans to end the use of driftnets in the Med, and as of Wednesday it was announced that Turkey has jumped on board as well. Great news for countless marine species!

"The UN passed an international moratorium on driftnets 15 years ago, and the EU instituted a ban seven years ago, but many French, Italian and Moroccan vessels have continued using them."

While the news of the upcoming ban falls on grateful ears, laws like this have a history of being ignored and there is potential for legal loopholes. Let's hope the ban gets implemented and supported successfully!

Full article here (Oceana)

Orange Roughy Fishery to Re-Open - Radio New Zealand News


photo credit A. Orlov & FishBase


I smell something fishy...and it's not the fish.

Orange roughy is a conservation-dependant species. That means that unless we're very careful about how many we catch, it's going to go extinct. The orange roughy fishery off South Island, New Zealand closed 10 years ago due to dwindling stocks. Now it is to be opened again.

If you were to walk into your local Whole Foods Market or check out the earlier sustainable seafoods post - or even just Google it, really - you would find that orange roughy is one of the worst choices you could make when purchasing seafood. This ugly little pink fish has unfortunately been found to taste good (I assume, I've never had it as far as I know), and now it's ridiculously overfished to the point where it could be wiped out completely. I still find it shocking that somehow it's okay to eat endangered species from the ocean. You don't go to your local supermarket and pick up tiger steaks, do you?

Anyway. Have the orange roughy stocks really come back enough to re-open fishing? Probably not. And even so, stocks are still in decline in other areas not so far away.

"The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand says evidence supporting the re-opening is unsound. Spokesperson Kirstie Knowles says it is based on an eight-fold increase in the fish stocks there, which is impossible."

Are we really ready for this?

Full article here (Radio New Zealand News)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Rescuers Scramble to Save Beached New Zealand Whales - Discovery News


photo credit New Zealand Department of Conservation


A pod of about 80 pilot whales stranded themselves in Spirits Bay, New Zealand Wednesday. Nearly 60 of them were presumed dead as of yesterday. This is the second mass stranding of pilot whales in the area in the past two months.

Full article here (Discovery News)


***UPDATE***
Fourteen whales successfully rescued!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Heads Up: Are You Unknowingly Eating Shark?

Check out this helpful list from VisionDive compiling lists of false names sharks are served under on menus. Includes English, Spanish, Greek, French, Italian and German.

"Any consumer of shark dishes is directly complicit in the extinction of sharks."

List here (VisionDive)
Want some sustainable seafood alternatives? Check out this post, or visit your local Whole Foods Market!

Whale Fossil Found at San Diego Zoo - LA Times


photo credit Allen J. Schaben & LA Times


Well damn, these things are just popping up all over the place, aren't they?

The San Diego zoo is home to 4,001 animals. That last one? They had no idea about it. It's been dead for 3 million years.

Construction workers were digging a hole for a new storm-water drainage system when they hit something special.

"I just kind of made eye contact with him. He knew right away that I had heard something big," says Gino Calvano, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Paleontologists had been on site because it was suspected that during the dig they might uncover shells or shark teeth...but never a whale!

Full article here (LA Times)

Where You Can and Can't Dig at the Beach - BuzzFeed

Alright, so BuzzFeed might be my guilty procrastination pleasure...but sometimes I do find legitimate stuff on there!

Check out this video from ABC News 3 when reporter Dan Thomas tried to build a sandcastle on a Florida beach affected by the BP oil spill.

It's illegal to dig in the sand. Yep. It's illegal to dig in the sand. It's illegal to dig in the sand. Are you serious? Apparently it's also illegal to film in a public park. No home videos, folks. And quit that sand castle nonsense right now.

The federal government has made a law saying BP cleanup workers can't dig more than six inches into the sand...even though in the video you can CLEARLY see oil remains after that depth. They're considering maybe extending that depth to 18 inches. Maybe.
With rules like this, the spill will never be cleaned up. Thanks, Feds.

Video here (BuzzFeed)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

New Wild-Caught Seafood Sustainability Ratings - Whole Foods

You might have heard by now - and I hope you have. The environmentally-minded grocery chain Whole Foods has committed to phasing out all unsustainable seafood from their stores by Earth Day 2013.


image credit Whole Foods


"Green or “best choice” ratings indicate a species is relatively abundant and is caught in environmentally-friendly ways. Our stores already feature a number of green-rated species. Having green rated species is critical because it demonstrates that fish populations can be healthy and that fisheries can be sustainably managed. Yellow or “good alternative” ratings mean some concerns exist with the species’ status or catch methods; and red or “avoid” ratings mean that for now the species is suffering from overfishing, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats. We’re evaluating the red-rated fisheries to see if changes can be made to improve fishing practices and ultimately earn a higher rating."

Here's a question: If a fish is rated-red, why continue to sell it? Well, Whole Foods has a pretty good answer:

"Actually, we already stopped selling especially vulnerable red-rated species such as non-MSC-certified Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, bluefin tuna, sharks, and marlins (with the exception of Hawaii-caught blue marlin, sold only in Hawaii stores). Under this new program, all swordfish and tuna from red-rated fisheries will be eliminated from seafood counters by Earth Day 2011. And by Earth Day 2012, all other seafood from red-rated fisheries will be discontinued with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole, which will be sold through Earth Day 2013. In the meantime, we’re evaluating the red-rated fisheries to see if changes can be made to improve fishing practices. Some fishermen have worked with us for many years so it’s a partnership and a process that takes a little time to change."

So, steps have already been made - which is great! It looks like each year on Earth Day the store will be eliminating the next-least-sustainable fish, in a constant movement forward.

This program will compliment the store's already-existing program for labeling farmed seafood, which follow the highest standards in the industry. They also have a partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which is the world's leading certification organization for wild-caught seafood.

This program aims to educate consumers about what they're actually buying, and perhaps to put a little bit of pressure on fisheries to step up their game and create a better, more sustainable product. I think it's great to know exactly what you're buying and exactly where it came from. An educated consumer makes better choices, but as we've seen in the past, trying to choose the best sustainable seafood can be a bit tricky sometimes...Even for someone with a degree in marine biology!

So, cheers Whole Foods. I will definitely be supporting this program. I hope you will too!

Full article here (Whole Foods)
Whole Foods Market website

Manatee Subspecies Genetically Confirmed, but Diversity Challenge Looms - Science Daily


photo credit iStockphoto & Yuko Hirao


It's official - the world now has a newly documented species of manatee - yay! Honestly, who doesn't love these guys?

Manatees living in Florida were genetically compared with those living in Belize, and the two populations were found to be separate genetic subspecies.

But with the good news comes some bad - the newly recognized Belizean subspecies has low genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is important to help stabilize a population should disease or natural disasters sweep through the area the manatees are living in and kill off individuals. A wide range of genes is needed to keep a population healthy and able to breed successful offspring.

So I welcome the newly discovered subspecies to the recognized world...but let's hit the ground running on this one and help pull the Antillean manatees of Belize back to a healthy population!

Full article here (Science Daily)

The Most Beautiful Crabs In The World - BuzzFeed


photo credit BuzzFeed
so probably Wikipedia


Just for fun. :)
Not really news, but why not share some pretty little invertebrates in the spotlight for a change?

Photos here (BuzzFeed)
Enjoy!

Deepwater Horizon: The End of the Beginning - Nature

Ding dong, the well is dead. It's a relief, but it's definitely not over - although people would love to think so. As time has gone on from the day of the explosion, less and less news sources have been covering the event, and it's been difficult to find articles that continued to focus on the environmental tragedies rather than the business ones. But anyway, here we are today. As of 18 September, the well is sealed.

“We can finally announce that the Macondo 252 well is effectively dead,” said the National Incident Commander, Admiral Thad Allen. “Additional regulatory steps will be undertaken but we can now state, definitively, that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.”

No continuing threat - but the oil that's already there will still present a problem for years to come. "The End of the Beginning" is very appropriate.

Full article here (Nature)

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Vladimir Putin Shoots a Whale - MNN


photo credit Alexei Druzhinin & AP


I must reference this picture as my reaction to the headline.

Putin has been very busy recently being awesome:

"...He's shot a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer dart, ridden bare-chested on a horse, captured a polar bear alive to fit it with a tracking collar, and even flew in a tanker plane dropping water on a Russian wildfire."

And all in the name of good. Aww, Vlad...and people say you're a sketchy guy.

Most recently he helped marine biologists take a skin sample from an endangered grey whale for research. How? With a fuckin' crossbow.

Why?
"Because I like it. I love the nature."

What a ham. But good work, Mr. Putin.

Full article here (MNN)

First Hourglass Dolphin in 150 Years Found on New Zealand Shores - TreeHugger


photo credit Massey University


Isn't it beautiful? Too bad it's dead :(

Typically these dolphins swim off the shores of Antarctica, and are very rarely seen north into the waters of New Zealand. Not much is known about this pretty dolphin. Having one wash up - although sad - will allow scientists to fill in missing information about these guys.

Full article here (TreeHugger)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Titan of the Thames: Resurfacing after 200 Years, the Whale that met a Bloody End - The Daily Mail


photo credit The Daily Mail


Right here in the middle of London, a 200 year old skeleton of an Atlantic Right Whale has been discovered in the Thames. South-East London used to be home to a large whaling port.

The head was missing - thought to have been taken inland in order to harvest the baleen for corsetry.

The skeleton is going on display at the Museum of London, and will later move to the Natural History Museum for further research.

Atlantic right whales are now an endangered species. There could be as few as 300 remaining today.

Full article here (The Daily Mail)

Scientists Investigate Massive Walrus Haul-Out in Alaska - The Guardian


photo credit USGS


Until now, walruses have hauled-out to rest on ice. But this year in Alaska they have been spotted on dry land.

"It's something that we have never seen before in this area," said Geoff York, of the WWF's global Arctic programme. "As the ice decreases, the walrus are abandoning it earlier and earlier. They are having to swim ashore, or to linger on less suitable drift ice for long periods of time."

The walrus has a 40% chance of extinction by 2095 because of climate change and reduced sea ice in the summer months, which is primarily where the animals live and rest.

When the walruses are forced to come on to dry land, there is an increased risk of being trampled by each other - especially young calves.

"The Arctic is warming at twice the rest of the world on average, and its seas are growing increasingly acidic because of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide."

This is also bad news for the walrus' food source. They forage on shellfish, whose calcium-carbonate shells are corroded away by the rising acid concentration in the sea.

Says Rebecca Noblin, the director of the Centre for Biological Diversity, "Unless we dramatically reduce our greenhouse emissions, the walrus is on a trajectory toward extinction."

Full article here (The Guardian)

Plastic Bag found Floating near Titanic Shipwreck - MSNBC


photo credit OurAmazingPlanet


"When oceanographer David Gallo stepped out onto his ship, floating above the resting place of the RMS Titanic, he spotted evidence of a different kind of tragedy — a lone plastic bag floating in the water.

"I walked out on the deck to appreciate a calm blue sea and there it was," said Gallo, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts. "It was totally unexpected and it had a profound impact on those of us on deck.""


It really is sad, the impact that human waste is having on the natural environment - even when you think you're in the middle of nowhere.

""We look at Titanic as the greatest disaster at sea, but the Titanic was a single tragic event. What we are doing to the sea on an everyday basis is one of the great untold tragedies," Gallo told OurAmazingPlanet."

It's not just the visible plastic that's scary; it's the bits and pieces broken down over time that enter the food chain. Each step upwards in the chain accumulates more and more plastic particles, ending ultimately in large predators - humans included.

Full article here (MSNBC)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Ancient Whale Skull Found in Calvert Cliffs - The Baltimore Sun

A whale skull has been exposed in the Calvert Cliffs in Maryland. The cliffs are often a site for these kinds of discoveries, and typically the Calvert Marine Museum collects three or four whale skeletons from the area per year.

"Only a small portion of the back of the skull is visible, said Stephen Godfrey of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons. But the Miocene-era fossil is probably 16 million years old, and likely belongs to an extinct family of small whales that swam in what were then Atlantic coastal waters teeming with marine life."

It is a smaller specimen, probably similar in size to today's minke whales.

The skull was discovered several months ago, but the excavation site was unstable and it could not be properly removed. Scientists covered the visible portions to protect it from amateurs, but when the skull was exposed again they decided to step in, stabilize the area and go ahead and remove the skull from the cliffs. Students from a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania university are helping with the dig.

"It's well and good to learn about evolution and read about it in a book," says Professor Robert E. Furey of the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. But "when you go and remove the remains of animals this size, and see how much ground has been laid down on top of it, and how old it is, it brings home the concepts of evolution and deep time. I'm hoping they have some sort of epiphany."

Whales have not yet been found this far down in the cliff sediments, so it is possible that this will be the first specimen found of its kind.

Full article here (The Baltimore Sun)

UK Trawler Filmed Dumping Tonnes of Fish - The Guardian

Okay, this is an older video, but I was just SHOCKED when I saw it - and I have to share. I knew this was going on, but I've never actually seen it before. So much waste, so much death for no reason. How can these people sleep at night? It's not news that the fisheries are severely declining. This has been going on for a while now.

I really just hate humanity sometimes.

In the video, a British fishing boat is seen dumping literally tons of fish overboard as waste. It's really upsetting. But it's better to open our eyes and see than it is to look the other way.

Video here (The Guardian)

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Dolphin Innovators Hunt Fish by Collecting Conch Shells - BBC


photo credit Kathrin Bacher


First of all, that picture is adorable.

The clever dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia have been collecting seashells. Why? They've figured out their fishy prey will hide in the empty shells, so the dolphins bring them to the surface where they can easily be flushed out and eaten.

""Shark Bay dolphins are known as clever inventors, showing a remarkable range of foraging tactics, which are unprecedented in other cetacean populations," says biologist Dr Michael Kr├╝tzen of the University of Zurich, Switzerland."

The dolphins of this area are also known for other inventive foraging techniques, including "sponging" - where a dolphin will grab a piece of sea sponge and use it as a "glove" over their snouts to protect themselves from stinging fish while searching the sand for food.

Bringing shells to the surface appears to be a relatively new behaviour on the dolphin's part. Sponging has been culturally passed down from generation to generation for some time, but there is no evidence of younger dolphins being taught the conch technique...yet!

Full article here (BBC)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Trash on the Spin Cycle - PBS


image credit PBS


This is a short video featuring Jean-Michel Cousteau speaking about ocean debris and the Great Pacific Garbage patch. It's really sad, some of the things going on here.

Cousteau is in the Hawaiian Islands (That's right, this is in America, people. Not some far-off distant land), where literally tons of garbage wash up from our disposable lifestyle.

"About 80% of this debris comes from land; it makes its way into storm drains, then rivers, then travels down our watersheds into the ocean."

What's worse is that the islands are nesting grounds for many important seabird species. The adults often mistake tiny plastic particles for food and will consume them, filling their bellies with non-digestibles so that the birds will feel full and stop eating, but in reality will actually be starving themselves to death. When the chicks hatch, the parents feed the plastics to their young.

In the video you can see piles of bird bones surrounded by tiny plastic particles. Cousteau even flips over a dead bird, and you can see the plastic falling out of its rotted stomach.

"We need to do better than this," he says. "It is our problem, and it is our problem to solve."

Video here (PBS)
See recent post about the Atlantic Garbage Patch


***UPDATE***

DOH! I almost forgot!!
I wanted to link you to an awesome post I saw yesterday about what to do with all your plastic shopping bags you have hanging around. Check it out!
(Buy me that first new-bag made out of old-bags.)

Killer Whale Dies at SeaWorld in San Diego; Orca Shows Canceled - LA Now

More bad news for SeaWorld...maybe it's time to take a serious look at what you're doing...?

Twelve-year-old male Sumar died of unknown causes yesterday. Six whales remain at the park.

"The male orca began acting lethargic on Monday and was given antibiotics by park veterinarians. But his condition worsened and he died at about 1:45 p.m. A necropsy is planned."

But fear not, 'cuz the shows will resume today! No sympathy, these people...Just money money money. Disgusting.

Full article here (LA Now)

Pictures: Crab Swarms Overtake Island—Mystery Solved - National Geographic


photo credit Mrinalini, Bangor University


Well, isn't that picture just adorable? I think they're just the cutest things.

For a long time scientists have wondered how the normally sedentary little crabs have been able to undertake "one of the most arduous migrations on Earth." Now we know.

Every year millions of the bright red crabs march down from a high rainforest plateau to the shores of the Indian Ocean to mate. You might have seen clips of this on BBC or Animal Planet shows before - it's really quite a lot of crabs! Usually these guys are pretty lazy.

""It's an amazing feat—going from not being able to exercise for more than ten minutes to walking for several miles," said Turner, a biologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom."

Turns out a huge spike in the crustacean hyperglycemic hormone "works with glucose, an energy-producing sugar, to fuel the epic trek."

Sugared crabs. Who woulda thunk?

Full article (and some glorious photos!) here (National Geographic)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Government Supports Dolphin Ban - SAFE


photo credit SAFE


"After spending over three decades imprisoned inside a small concrete pool Kelly, Marineland's 38-year-old performing dolphin, died last Thursday. Her death marks the end of a sad era in New Zealand's history. Kelly was the last surviving captive dolphin in New Zealand. SAFE will now take action to ensure it never happens again."

Seventy-one dolphins have died in captivity in New Zealand alone. Kelly's death signaled that it was time for a change in the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

"A coalition between SAFE, WSPA, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and Project Jonah has received a favourable response from the government to no longer keep dolphins in captivity in New Zealand."

The evidence is strong in showing that concrete pools do not equal vast ocean environments. Recent attention thanks to film The Cove and new TV series Blood Dolphins has heightened public awareness to the cruelty of capture and containment of these intelligent species.

Full article here (SAFE)

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Ultimate Sustainable Seafood? - Chow


photo credit NOAA


"At Miya's Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut, Chef Bun Lai serves European flat oysters with Sichuan pepper, lime, soy, and daikon relish; grilled moon snails; batter-fried Asian shore crabs; and raw slices of lionfish with sake-soy sauce, roasted seaweed flakes, toasted sesame seeds, and chives. It might be the only menu of its kind in the country: He calls it the Long Island Sound Invasive Species Menu."

Well if that doesn't give me a reason to visit my hometown...I've been meaning to try lionfish. But I just adore moon snails - I could never.

We've all been hearing a lot about the decline of popular commercial fish species such as tuna, salmon and cod while invasive species such as lionfish and Asian carp explode and cause problems such as feeding off the young of many more vulnerable species. Some believe it would be a great solution to switch and eat the invasive, overpopulated species instead. Hmm...

Lionfish has been gaining popularity recently, as people have been discovering it's actually quite delicious. The set back is those huge beautiful spines that give them their name. Get stuck by one and you'll be feeling it. For this reason fishermen don't typically bring them in to shore.

Another fish to go from pesky pest to delicious dining is the Asian carp. Although it has been found hard to fillet - and as a result is expensive - the fish has been successful when served at restaurants and is already being exported as food to China. America - hang on to some! Cook up some fish!!

There is a concern that in fishing for an invasive species, it too will actually become overfished and eventually endangered.

"It seems impossibly far off to think that the supply of Asian carp could run out, but what if it does and there is still money to be made and stomachs grumbling for it? Would the fish be farmed? And escape? Again? "Then we have the problem all over," Chef Phillip Foss says."

What do you think? Is eating invasive fish species the ultimate sustainable seafood?

Full article here (Chow)

Man Planned to Eat Washed-Up Whale Tail - News.com.au

More weird whale news.

A man in Florida who found a dead whale washed up on the beach used his fishing knife to chop off the animal’s tail and TOOK IT HOME TO EAT IT.

"I'd probably broil or fry it," said Chris Hogan, the discoverer.

What is going on in the world? Seriously.

"Police detained Mr. Hogan, and another man, for questioning, explaining that mutilating a federally protected species is illegal, even if the animal is found dead."

Sheesh.

Full article here (News.com.au)

Stranded Whale goes Out with a Bang - The Sydney Morning Herald

"Explosives have been used to euthanase a sickly humpback whale which washed up onto a sandbar off Western Australia's southwest coast."

Um...WHAT?! Am I reading this right?

The DEC was going to let the animal die of natural causes, but instead decided to BLOW IT THE HELL UP.

This is ridiculous.

"In a statement, DEC Albany district manager Mike Shepherd said the whale had moved a couple of metres from its original position, which was enough to stabilise the whale and kill it humanely."

I dunno about you, but I don't really consider dynamite "humanely."

Don't these people know what happened during the last attempt blow up a whale?

Full article here (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

With Biggest Salmon Run in nearly a Century, Hope Returns to the Fraser - The Globe and Mail


photo credit Andy Clark & Reuters


Mmmmm...salmon. My favourite fish! So light, so smooth and creamy. So wonderful to have a big pinky-orange chunk of fresh raw salmon with nothing else to taint the flavour. Oh god. The days I eat salmon are the better days of my life.

But all is not well in salmon world, and I fear that I may not be able to enjoy this meal in good conscience mush longer. I have already given up tuna, swordfish and Chilean and Mediterranean sea bass for this reason. Please don't take away my salmon...
There may be hope.

"Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has been in B.C. this week and said the excitement she’s seen in fishing communities is palpable. “Everybody is abuzz about the great return of the Fraser sockeye,” she said in an interview on Tuesday."

The new estimates put the total number of salmon coming to the Fraser at 25 million. That makes it the best run since 1913!

But that doesn't necessarily mean we're out of the woods yet. Scientists and fishermen alike were expecting this year to be a peak - just not this mush of one. After this year, salmon numbers are expected to fall again.

“We’re thrilled the numbers are so great, but the reality is 2009 was a problematic year,” she said. “We’ll take into account the great numbers this year, but there are still a lot of questions around the long-term sustainability of Fraser River sockeye.”

Full article here (The Globe and Mail)

The Gulf Spill Cocktail


photo credit Liquor Snob


Is it too soon for this? I had to share.

I found this here while Stumblin' around the web, but it's actually a great marine bio blog too. Here's the recipe:

"GULF SPILL

1.5 Blueberry juice oz
.5 oz Kahlua
.5 oz Chocolate liqueur (I prefer Godiva)
3 Blueberries
Sand colored sugar, like raw or demerara

optional:
Bar spoon chocolate sauce to make extra chocolatey! If you're an addict, and chocolate is your poison, might I suggest CHOCAGAVE. This stuff is amazing and sort of healthy (considering that it is chocolate sauce!)

Rim the glass with sugar that will symbolize sand.
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into glass.
Float blueberries on top to symbolize dead sea creatures.
Cheers!"


Personally, I think the blueberries look more like tarballs, which is a nice touch.

Will I be trying this? Maybe, if I can afford the ingredients. (hah!)

DeepSeaNews put it best: "Sometimes you have to laugh so you don’t cry."

Link here (Liquor Snob)

Ocean Garbage Patch Not Growing—Where's "Missing" Plastic? - National Geographic


photo credit David M. Lawrence, SEA


Well that picture about sums it up.

At first it seems that the patch not growing would be good news.

"It's possible some of the trash is just too small for researchers to catalog, study leader [Kara Lavender] Law said: "Our net only captures pieces larger than [a third of a millimeter] in size, and it's certain that the plastic breaks down into pieces smaller than that.""

That, and the fact that marine animals have been mistaking the tiny plastic pieces for food. The triggerfish in the photo had 47 pieces of plastic in its stomach! This wasn't in the article, but I've heard stories more than once about seabirds scooping up mouthfuls of plastic mistaken for food. Their bellies become full with tiny plastic pieces, so they think they're full, but they actually starve to death. It's a very sad situation.

This garbage patch probably isn't the one you've heard of. This one is in the Atlantic - not the Pacific which has been getting much attention recently. The scary thing about the Atlantic garbage patch is that scientists can't find the edges.

"Meanwhile, even though the SEA expedition traveled a thousand miles (1,609 kilometers) east of Bermuda, "we still can't find the eastern edge" of the patch, Law said.
The Algalita mission traveled much farther east, all the way to the Azores islands off Portugal (map), the foundation's Eriksen said, and "we had plastics in our samples from Bermuda to the Azores."
Overall, the results tell "a depressing story, to be honest," SEA's Law added. "You're like, Great, [the patch] is not increasing! But I'm sure it is.""


Full article here (National Geographic)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Dolphin Hunt Kicks Off In Japan - Ecorazzi


photo credit SaveJapanDolphins.org


Yesterday was the first day of the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji - the subject of the film "The Cove." How many dolphins were caught? None!

That's right, in a happy victory of dolphin over dunce, not a single dolphin was caught for the start of the slaughter.

Originally, there was a protest scheduled for yesterday in Taiji, but it had to be cancelled due to threats of violence against the activists.

"Regarding his decision not to protest in Taiji, O’Barry wrote on his blog: “Our work in Japan has never been about confrontation. We believe we are making progress by bringing the truth to the people of Japan about the dolphin slaughter and about mercury-poisoned dolphin meat in markets. We will not play the game that the nationalist groups want us to play – we will not have it become “us versus them”, a battle between dolphin hunters with their militant nationalist supporters and the foreigners who want to ruin Japan’s culture.”"

Unfortunately, ten dolphins were not so lucky today. To learn more about the Taiji dolphins and how you can help, click here.

Full article here (Ecorazzi)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Kindai Bluefin Tuna, Farmed Sustainably, Available in Philadelphia - The Philadelphia Inquirer


photo credit Laurence Kesterson


Well damn, and we were told it couldn't be done.

""All populations of bluefin tuna are being caught faster than they can reproduce," according to Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch."

But the people love tuna. So what will be done about a favourite sushi menu item? Well, Japan's Kinki University's Fisheries Laboratories might just have an answer.

"Kindai tuna are farmed, rather than ranched: raised to maturity from wild bluefin eggs, which ensures genetic diversity. Mediterranean, South Australian, and Mexican tuna ranchers capture juvenile fish, raise them in net pens, and often ship them to market before they are mature enough to reproduce. Critics say ranching doesn't help rebuild stocks, though the higher prices they fetch help fishermen."

Mmkay, some input. Ideas to stop the over-harvesting of bluefin tuna: great. Farming fish: potentially good, depending on how you manage your wastes and ensure genetic diversity. The fact that these are wild eggs is a plus. Pen-raised fish: probably bad, as it leads to a lot of waste creation and potentially stressful living conditions for the fish. Sending them to market before they reproduce: probably good, since the genetic diversity won’t be impaired after years of breeding the same stock of fish over and over again. Will this restore stocks? No, but I don't think that's the point. I think the point is to take the stress off removing wild tuna from the environment, and this will do that.

Is this the end-all of the bluefin tuna debate? No. But I think it's a step in the right direction.

Want more information about choosing a sustainable fish? Check out the post on sustainable seafood!

Full article here (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Beluga Whales to Gain New Protection Zone - The Globe and Mail


photo credit The Canadian Press


Canada has set aside three areas in the arctic as the new Tarium Niryutait Marine Protection Area. It is the first of its kind in this area.

Beluga whales will be the stars of the new reserve, as the area is home to one of the world's largest populations during the summer months. The whales come here to socialize, feed and raise their calves.

The protected area will also cater to the Inuvialuit culture, which relies on traditional hunting and fishing.

Full article here (The Globe and Mail)

Japan Invites Pro-Whaling Nations to Meeting Focused on Ending Ban on Commercial Hunts - The Canadian Press

Trouble in the air. Japan's strong desire to lift the ban on commercial whale kills seems to be leading to a potentially dangerous gathering.

"The meeting is intended to build solidarity among pro-whaling nations in support of "sustainable use" and to strengthen the lobby against the ban on commercial whaling in place since 1986, the fisheries agency said in a statement."

You all know my opinion on this already, but I'll say it again. I just want to re-state the cruelty involved in whale hunts. Death is often slow and painful for meat that often goes unused. The truth is that since the Second World War, the people of Japan really haven't been eating much whale. It's mostly just a delicacy for wealthy businessmen. They're not trying to preserve their culture, they're not trying to feed their people, they're just trying to make money off a cruel practice. And still, now isn't the time to be hunting whales. Although it may seem like a long time ago, whale populations are still recovering from the last hunts. Re-opening commercial whaling would just start the same series of problems all over again. Most of the world knows this by now, so I don't even know why we're talking about it.

Full article here (The Canadian Press)

EU Overfishing Charges 'Preposterous': Iceland - AFP


photo credit AFP


The European Union is threatening Iceland with sanctions on the grounds that the country is overfishing mackerel.

"According to international laws, we as a coastal country may fish in our jurisdiction so it is absolutely preposterous of the EU or its member countries to make such threats," says Jon Bjarnason, Fisheries Minister.

"The Nordic island nation has unilaterally decided to raise its mackerel quota to 130,000 tonnes this year compared to the usual 2,000 tonnes agreed upon in an accord with the EU, the Faroe Islands and Norway in 1999."

Yes, Iceland, you have a right to fish in your own waters, but damn that's a huge increase! Be careful...

"Scottish and Norwegian fishermen are particularly angered by what has been described as a "mackerel war.""

This wouldn't be the first time. Here's a bit of a history lesson: Iceland has great fishing grounds. Nice cold waters and a big coastline all the way around, pretty much right in the middle of the North Atlantic. The rest of Europe has known this for a long time, and they've always wanted in. There were three "cod wars" between Iceland and Britain in the 50s and 70s - disputes over territorial waters. This resulted in a bunch of nets being cut, ships being rammed - even shots being fired - and a general feeling of hostility between neighboring fishing countries.

It could happen again, and it looks like it might. When the resources start disappearing, the people will start to fight over them.

Full article here (AFP)


***UPDATE***
I almost forgot...a book recommendation! For more information about the Cod Wars, pick up Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. A great read! I'm actually going to go through it again with a highlighter.

DNA Gathering Development a Blow to Japan's Whaling 'Science' - The Australian

Again, with the quotes around "science." I just love that, such a nice touch. You ain't foolin' no one, Japan.

So, Japan says whales need to be killed in order to be studied, which is crap because other nations study whales and dolphins just fine while keeping them alive. Just like any other animal, just like people as well. Anyway.

A new method, called "blow-sampling," allows scientists to get DNA information without killing the animal of interest. It works by capturing the air and spit exhaled by the whales as they come up for air, which if you've ever been in a basic genetics class, you know you can get the equivalent of cheek cells and all that good stuff in it. Isn't bio fun?

Scientists have been using dart methods that remove a small piece of skin from the animal for a while now, though...So it's not like we needed a new reason not to kill whales. But here you go, here it is anyway!

Full article here (The Australian)

Mangrove Forest Inventory Shows Steep Declines - Our Amazing Planet


photo credit NPS


A new map made from satellite data shows the world's mangrove forests are far smaller than previously estimated. Only about 6.9% of them are currently protected.

Mangroves are amazingly important plants. Trees, palms and shrubs of the species have evolved to live in the harsh environmental conditions of extreme salinity, high temperatures and substantial tidal differences. The intricate root systems help to slow turbulent waters and keep sediments in place. For these reasons they are an important nursery for young marine life and are also a front-line defence during hurricanes, tropical storms and other sources of beach and island erosion.

I spent some time in Belize in college, and one of our guides explained to us that a lot of rich foreigners came into the cayes to buy private islands. They found the mangrove trees that lined the islands unattractive and had them removed, thus removing the island's natural protection. These islands no longer exist, because without the mangroves to hold everything together, the islands were literally swept away!

"It is believed that 35 percent of mangrove forests were lost from 1980 to 2000," says Chandra Giri, of the U.S. Geological Survey, "which has had an impact on the coastal communities that use mangrove forests as a protective barrier from natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tsunamis."

Full article here (Our Amazing Planet) - Click to see the map generated by the satellites!

Massive Artificial Reef Grows like Wild - Sign On San Diegeo


photo credit Southern California Edison


The Wheeler North Reef was put in place by Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Riverside. Their nuclear generating station in North County caused large-scale ecological damage after its erection in 1974.

The permit they held was re-evaluated to make up for the losses suffered due to the plant. The companies had to restore the San Dieguito marsh, finance a marine fish hatchery and construct an artificial reef to replace lost kelp beds.

"The new reef is north of the nuclear plant near San Clemente. It started in 1999 as a 22.4-acre experimental project designed to guide construction of a larger reef."

The foundation of the reef is made of a single layer of medicine-ball-sized boulders across the sand. At this size they will be moved about by passing storms and the ecosystem will be dynamic.

“To get giant kelp coming back generation after generation, there always needs to be bare rock on the reef, and you are only going to get that if you have an unstable reef,” says David Kay, head of environmental projects for Edison.

So far, so good. The reef now spreads 174-acres and the kelp beds are back and strong.

"“We are really well on the way to having duplicated a very complex ecosystem on a large scale,” said Kay.

The growing reef has passed nine of 14 important benchmarks and remains on a positive trajectory. Congrats!

Full article here (Sign On San Diego)

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Top Fish Predators Decline in Stellwagen Bank - The Epoch Times


photo credit Jodi Hilton/Getty Images


"The Gulf of Maine Cod Project found that there has been a ‘significant decline in animal diversity and abundance’ in the Stellwagen Bank, according to the Marine Historical Ecology Final Report."

Research says that the species richness and habitat quality of Stellwagen Bank and the Gulf of Maine has been declining drastically over the past 100 years.

Stellwagen Bank is off the coast of Massachusetts and was declared a National Marine Sanctuary in 1992. It is a popular site for ecotourist activities such as whale watching.

Fingers point to overfishing, especially bottom trawling which disrupts the environment on the seafloor. Evidence in the report suggests that the effect can be reversed if the government can provide greater protection and fishermen can practice greater restraint.

Wondering if the fish you're eating is contributing to the decline? Need a reminder on which fish to buy and which fish to avoid? Educate yourself about sustainable seafood!

Full article here (The Epoch Times)

Gulf Seafood With a Side of Oil Dispersant? - National Geographic


photo credit Ali Sanderson/Expedition Blue Planet


A short article with a good quote:

""This is the safest seafood in the world. It's like flying after 9-11," remarked the Lafourche Parish President's husband over dinner with Expedition Blue Planet last Friday night. His reasoning: The catch coming into shore here is probably more thoroughly tested than anything being imported into the state."

Full article here (National Geographic)